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Alberta UCP members head to polls on final voting day to replace Kenney

UPDATE:
Thursday evening, UCP officials announced 84,593 ballots had been cast.
Following the first round of voting, Leela Aheer was knocked out of the running with just 1.6 per cent of the first ballot.
Following the second round of voting, Rajan Sawhney was knocked out of the running with just 2.7 per cent of the second ballot.
Following the third round of voting, Todd Loewen was knocked out of the running with just 7.8 per cent of the third ballot.
Following the fourth round of voting, Rebecca Schulz was knocked out of the running with just 8.4 per cent of the fourth ballot.
Following the fifth round of voting, Brian Jean was knocked out of the running with just 14.8 per cent of the fifth ballot.
Following the last round of voting, Danielle Smith won the election with 54.8 per cent of the ballot. Travis Toews received 46.2 per cent.
Read the full story about Danielle Smith’s win here. 

Albertans will learn later Thursday who the new premier of the province will be.

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Voting is wrapping up by members of the United Conservative Party (UCP) to select a successor to Premier Jason Kenney.

Read more: How Alberta’s UCP leadership race works

Kenney announced in the spring he was leaving after receiving 51 per cent in a party leadership review.

“I’m feeling great. I’m just doing my job. I’m trying to deliver on our commitments to Albertans as long as I have this responsibility,” he said Thursday morning while at a news conference in Calgary.

Click to play video: 'The highs and lows of Jason Kenney’s time as UCP leader'
The highs and lows of Jason Kenney’s time as UCP leader

Kenney announced that 50 previously promised intensive care beds are now ready and efforts are underway to bring in more nurses from abroad to address labour shortages.

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Read more: 19 of 50 new ICU beds announced in Alberta budget already open, staffed: Premier Kenney

Kenney said he’s often asked why he stuck around as premier after the leadership review instead of handing the reins to an interim leader.

“Believe me, I didn’t get into politics for the adulation. I got into public service to get things done,” he said.

“And if we had shifted to an interim government for five months, very little would have gotten done… the province would have gone through a degree of policy paralysis for the better part of six months just as we’re trying to recover from COVID.”

Click to play video: 'Final in-person vote Thursday for UCP members to pick Alberta premier'
Final in-person vote Thursday for UCP members to pick Alberta premier

There are 124,000 eligible voters in the leadership race, many of whom cast early ballots by mail.

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In-person voting stations were also set up at five locations in various regions Thursday, and the winner was to be announced later in the day in Calgary.

Click to play video: 'Outgoing Alberta Premier Kenney stays busy on final days'
Outgoing Alberta Premier Kenney stays busy on final days

There are seven candidates in the race, including four former members of Kenney’s cabinet, but one-time Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith is the perceived favourite to win.

Read more: Alberta UCP to pick province’s new premier Thursday

Political observers and pollsters have said whoever wins needs to start talking about issues that are top of mind for Albertans.

The leadership debate has been dominated by ways the province can assert greater independence from the federal government.

Pollster Janet Brown and political scientist Lori Williams said Albertans are more concerned about inflation, long waits for health care and jammed emergency wards in hospitals.

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